The Joker’s Wild 1977
The Joker’s Wild 1981
Syndicated: September 1977 - May 23, 1986
Run time
30 Minutes
Jack Barry, Jim Peck, Bill Cullen
Jay Stewart, Bob Hilton, Art James, Charlie O'Donnell
KCOP Television, Los Angeles, California; The Production Group Studios, Los Angeles, California

This is chronicling the syndicated 1977 revival of The Joker's Wild.

Game FormatEdit

Two contestants faced a giant slot machine & answered questions. On those wheels are five categories. Each player in turn pulled a lever in front of them which caused the category wheels to spin. When the wheels stopped, that player was given a choice of up to three categories. Host Barry asked a question under that category and a correct answer won money for that player; but an incorrect answer gave the opponent a chance to steal the money by answering the same question. Question values were determined by how many of that category appeared. A single category was worth $50, a double category/pair was worth $100, and a triple was worth $200. The first player to reach $500 or more won the game. Also on the wheels were jokers, they're wild (hence the name of the show). The contestants can match up the joker with any category they chose, and they can also use the joker(s) to go off the board, and select a different category. But if at anytime three jokers come up (that's Joker, Joker, JOKER!), that player can instantly win the game by answering one question from one category correctly; however, if unsuccessful, the opponent could not steal and the game continued as normal. Originally the player would automatically win without answering a question by getting three jokers. Both players took an equal number of turns, in the event the first player/the challenger)reached $500 first, the second player/champion took one final spin in an attempt to catch-up. In the event of a tie at $500, extra rounds were played and whoever was ahead in score at the end of a complete round was the winner. The winner of the game kept his/her money and earned a chance to play the bonus game.

Special categoriesEdit

Special categories were presented during the syndicated era.

  • Multiple Choice - The player is given three possible answers to a general knowledge question, and had to choose the correct answer.
  • Pot Luck - A question in which could be almost anything.
  • Grab Bag - A straight-forward general knowledge question.
  • Who, What, or Where? - self explanatory
  • A to Z/Alphabet Soup - In this category, the host announced a letter which the correct answer began with, then he read the question, and all the contestant had to do was to give the correct answer beginning with that letter (ala Blockbusters).
    • This particular category was also used on sister shows Tic Tac Dough & Bullseye. On Tic Tac it was called "Take a Letter", and on Bullseye it was called "It's the Letter ___!".
  • Crossword Definitions - The host would announce the number of letters in a word and read a definition pertaining to that word. The contestant must guess what the word is associated with that definition.
  • What's Missin_? - A sentence pertaining to a phrase or a title, or a list, was read and the contestant's job is to fill in the missing word or complete the list.
  • Today's Name Is... - Questions in this category pertain to a famous person, actor/actress, etc.
  • Fact or Foto - Replaced "Choose the Clues" during the 1985-86 season. The host gave the subject to the answer, then the player had to choose to hear a fact about the answer to a question or to see a photo of the answer. An incorrect response gave their opponent both the fact and photo before answering.
  • How Low Will You Go? - Replaced "Mystery" during the 1985-86 season. This was played similar to "Bid A Note" on Name That Tune. A question with a list of eight clues was asked and the players bid-off as to how few clues (s)he would need to answer it. A wrong answer meant the opponent was supplied with all the clues before giving an answer.

Special Scoring QuestionsEdit

These are categories affected the scoring of the game.

  • Mystery(?) - Identical to the "Secret Category" on Tic Tac Dough, this category lasted until after the 8th season. If & when the contestant spun & picked the category, the question was played for double value. These were seven vertical cards marked with question marks (?) on the front of the host's podium numbered from 1 to 7, representing seven mystery categories. The contestant chose one of those cards, then the host would announce the category (not one of the other 4) and read the question, with a correct answer earning the player $100, $200, or $400 depending on the spin. On occasion, the Mystery Category questions could be multiple-choice.
  • Fast Forward ____________- This category was the only special category that lasted throughout the entire series, and all the questions in that game came from one subject. This was where the player can answer as many questions as he/she wished, with the option to stop after each correct answer. Stopping was important, because if at any time the player in control gave a wrong answer, he/she lost all the accumulated money won back to the starting score and gave the opponent a chance to answer the missed question for the face value ($50, $100, or $200). This was usually an alternative to three jokers, when someone really trailing behind needed to catch up.
  • Stumpers - Introduced in the Fall of 1983, "stumpers" were all questions missed by both players from previous shows. The player who spun & chose the category could elect to answer the question for single value after the host gave the two wrong answers given by those two players or go for double the dollar value by answering the question without any help. Originally, the category was a straightforward question from any category, with $100 added to the value of the question, making the question worth $150, $200, or $300.
  • Bid __________ Debuted during Barry's final season. A player had to answer a certain amount of questions (similar to the format of Bullseye) to win the money times the number of questions required. To start, the player chose how many questions they would like to answer (with a minimum bid of two), with the value of the spin multiplied by the amount of the bid. Should the first player miss the question, his/her opponent can complete the bid themselves by answering the remaining questions correctly. An incorrect answer by the opponent ended the questioning and that player would spin on their proper turn for another category. Like "Fast Forward", the category can be used to catch up if trailing; unlike "Fast Forward", however, the accumulated money was not lost if the question was missed, allowing the opponent to steal the accumulated money by providing the last correct answer.
  • Choose the Clues - The host reveals the subject for the question and the opponent decides if the player in control would be given one or two clues. One clue was worth double the amount while two clues was worth the regular amount. If the spinning player is given only one clue and misses, the opponent is given both clues for the regular amount and the chance to answer.

Natural TripleEdit

Contestants won a bonus for spinning a natural triple in the main game in addition to answering a question worth $200. From 1977 to 1983 in the syndicated show, contestants who spun a natural triple won a special prize which was kept win or lose. Beginning in the fall of 1983, contestant who spun a natural triple won a special jackpot called the "Natural Triple Jackpot" which was an accumulating jackpot prize package. Prizes were kept regardless of the game's outcome.

Bonus Game (Face the Devil)Edit

In the bonus round, the categories & jokers were replaced by dollar values ranging from $25-$200, and devils which still resembled host Jack Barry. The winning player can take as many spins as they liked. The goal on each spin is to spin only money amounts, each time he/she did that, that contestant would win the combined total of the money amounts shown. But if at anytime a devil appeared that player would lose all the accumulated money up to that point. That's why the host gave the contestant the option to stop the game and keep whatever he/she won after each successful spin. But if the contestant can reach $1,000 or more, that player not only gets to keep the cash, but also wins a special prize package; and if the winning player can spin a natural triple (three of the same money amounts), he/she automatically wins the money & prizes.

NOTE: Should a player have at least $925, a Natural Triple simple adds the money to the total.

Tournament of ChampionsEdit

For the first three years, "Tournaments of Champions" were held annually, featuring 8 of the biggest winners from the previous year (for the $50,000 and $1,000,000 tournaments, the tournament field was 16). Different rules applied to Tournament of Champions play: the players played for points instead of dollars, and in the championship game, two wins out of three were needed for the top prize (3 out of 5 for both the third and fourth tournaments). In the event a natural triple was spun, $500 went to the player's favorite charity. Players drew numbers to determine who would spin the wheels first. If the player who spun first (in the challenger's podium) spun three jokers and answered a question correctly, that player's score goes to 500 points. The player who spun second (in the champion's podium) would get one final turn to tie the game in that case, or win the game if trailing by less than 200 points; so therefore in any case, both players get an equal number of turns. The player who was ahead after each completed round after the target score of 500 points was reached or exceeded was declared the winner. Also, no bonus game was played throughout the tournament; after one game was completed, another game began.

Frank Dillon won the $50,000 and $100,000 tournaments in 1977 and 1978, respectively; Eileen Jason captured the $250,000 tournament in 1979 defeating Dillon in the finals. The $50,000 was a prize package ($25,000 cash, a trip around the world, and a Chevy Nova), the $100,000 was also a prize package ($50,000 cash, a Buick Skylark, several rooms of furniture and 4 seasonal trips [to the South Pacific, Morocco, Switzerland, and Paris]), and the $250,000 prize was a $200,000 annuity paid out over a period of ten years plus $50,000 in prizes.

$1,000,000 TournamentEdit

For what would turn out to be the final ToC in 1980 (due to a majority of stations being CBS O&O's who imposed their then-$25,000 limit on winners), The Joker's Wild became the first television program to advertise that it was giving away $1,000,000. It was the total purse for this ToC, whose players would split their earnings with 16 nominated charities. During this tournament, the theme to another Barry & Enright game show, the 1976 version of Break the Bank, was used instead of the regular opening and closing themes; however, the regular Joker's Wild theme was used as a bumper. Also by the time this tournament came into effect, contestants started to wear nametags, and they would continue to wear them through the end of the series. Cassandra Dooley, one of the participants, had to have her name abbreviated because it was so long.

Money DistributionEdit
Tourney Rounds Award
Premliminaries $7,500 for the runner-up & charity ($15,000 total)
Quarterfinals $12,500 for the runner-up & charity ($25,000 total)
Semifinals $20,000 for the runner-up & charity ($40,000 total)
Finals *$250,000 for the winner & charity ($500,000 total). $100,000 for the runner-up & charity ($200,000 total).

*The winner gets $25,000 a year for a decade and his/her charity gets the full $250,000. Runner-up gets $10,000 a year for a decade and the full $100,000 for his/her charity.

Rob Griffin won the $1,000,000 tournament, defeating Cassandra Dooley. Rob donated half his winnings to the March of Dimes, while Cassandra donated half her winnings to Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Audience GameEdit

From 1981-1985, at the end of every show (originally the Friday show), an audience game was played. This was where audience members got a chance to win money for themselves.

Three audience members came on down, and each one took a spin on the money wheels in which its amounts ranged from $10-$50 plus $100 spaces, for a maximum of $300 in one spin. Originally they can take up to two spins; if they liked what they saw on the first spin, they stayed with it; if not, they can reject the amount and spin again. In either case, whatever they won was theirs, and the audience player with the highest amount of money went on to spin against the devil for more cash and a bonus prize. In case of a tie, a spin-off was played to determine the winner. Any money won from the spin-off spins was added to their totals.

Cullen's Audience GameEdit

In the eighth season when Bill Cullen took over, the rules were modified. Since Bill wasn't able to go to the studio audience due to his limpage from polio crippling him, two audience members came up on stage to play the game. The third player was a home viewer who played the game by phone; he/she had to activate the wheels using the star key (*). Other than that, most of the rules stayed the same.


The show was distributed by Colbert Television Sales.

International VersionsEdit





Episode StatusEdit


The Joker's Wild syndicated premiere (1977) Part One

The Joker's Wild syndicated premiere (1977) Part One

The Joker's Wild syndicated premiere (1977) Part Two

The Joker's Wild syndicated premiere (1977) Part Two

Joker's Wild syndicated premiere (1977) Part Three

Joker's Wild syndicated premiere (1977) Part Three

WPVI The Joker's Wild promo, 1985

WPVI The Joker's Wild promo, 1985

The Joker's Wild contestant ticket plug, 1985

The Joker's Wild contestant ticket plug, 1985

See AlsoEdit

The Honeymoon Game
The Joker’s Wild
Joker Joker Joker
The Joker’s Wild (1990)
The Joker's Wild (2006 pilot)
The Joker's Wild (2009 proposed pilot)
Snoop Dogg Presents The Joker’s Wild
Gettin' Wild with Snoop Dogg


Adam Nedeff's page on the Bill Cullen years of The Joker's Wild
Adam Nedeff's older page on the Bill Cullen years of The Joker's Wild
David's Syndicated Joker's Wild Page
Rules for The Joker's Wild at the Game Show Temple
Josh Rebich's Joker's Wild Rules Page
Flash game of Face the Devil
Older Flash game of Face the Devil